Arizona outfielder Hunter Pace easily could have moped and complained, and even left the team because of the lack of playing time.
But he didn’t. He stuck around for three years, sitting behind T.J. Steele, who was a fourth-round selection in the Major League Baseball draft a year ago.
Pace, who graduates with a regional development degree, will start his last home series when the Wildcats play Washington at Sancet Stadium at 7 p.m. Saturday.
The Pac-10 series runs through Monday.
“Hunter Pace is the reason why I enjoy coaching,” UA coach Andy Lopez said.
Pace is one of four seniors playing their last home series, joining pitchers Preston Guilmet and Cory Burns, and outfielder Brad Glenn.
Pace was a standout at Chandler Hamilton High. But Steele took over the center field position and became one of the top outfielders in the country.
“Unfortunately T.J. had to come in the same year, but it was good for me,” Pace said. “I learned a lot from watching T.J. and the way he went about his business.”
Pace wasn’t bad, having been a 28th-round draft choice out of high school.
He just didn’t get too many chances. He had only 83 at bats entering this season.
Pace is making the most of his final season. A starter this year, he’s second on the team with a .369 average, and second in stolen bases with 13.
“It has been rewarding to finally see all the time you put in and the extra work paying off,” Pace said. “At the same time you have to stay hungry and stay humble so nobody else passes you up.”
A couple of times Pace met with Lopez about playing time. He wanted to know what had to happen in order for him to play.
“They were never the kind (of meetings) where he leaves and you say, ‘What a jerk,’ ” Lopez said. “I have always respected the way he has handled that. There is not a guy in this program who would say a bad thing about that guy.”
Washington (23-25, 12-9) at Arizona (25-23, 8-13)
Saturday: 7 p.m.
Sunday: 6 p.m.
> At Sancet Stadium, 1290 AM